Throughout Ephesians Paul loves to compare our former, lost, and hopeless condition with our present state of glory and salvation in Christ. Paul did not want us to forget who we had been outside of Christ. Reminding us of this should keep us from pride, give us joyful hearts, and lead us to praise God. There are many contrasts, both implicit and explicit, in Ephesians. Here are three of the most explicit in the epistle.
Ephesians 2:1-4 We were dead in our sins, but now we are alive in Christ.
Two notes about this contrast. First, it puts God’s power, love, and mercy at the center of our change. Dead men don’t get up and walk out in their own power. We played no part in being born again. Second, the transformation is total. You are either dead or alive. There isn’t any middle ground.
Ephesians 2:12-13 We were strangers, but now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Three notes about this contrast. First, salvation is about being brought near to God. It is about our relationship with him. As John Piper says, “God is the Gospel.” The aim of our salvation is not simply the saving of our soul and bodies. It is a saving so that we might be close to God. Second, we have become part of the New Israel. We were outside, aliens to nation of Israel. Now we are inside, citizens with all the rights that come with that title. Third, this contrast has priest and Temple written all over. Who could come near to God in the Old Testament? Well, it wasn’t us Gentiles. But now we are priests in the Temple of God.
Ephesians 5:8 We were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord.
Two notes about this one. First, we are light. We don’t become light when we do this or that. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 5:14. Just by existing we expose darkness. Just by existing we shine for Christ. Second, like the previous two contrasts, we are light because we are in Christ. Christ is the fountain of every blessing we have believers. He is head from which all good things flow. Outside of him we are dead, aliens, and darkness. In Him, we are alive, citizens, and light. Every good thing we are or will do has come about because of our union with Christ.